(WASHINGTONPOST) — On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen.
"We believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth," Hawking said at Monday's news conference, "So in an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life."
Geoffrey Marcy, a University of California, Berkeley, astronomer who found most of our first exoplanets, also spoke at the event as part of the group's brain trust.
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"The universe is apparently bulging at the seams with the ingredients of biology," Marcy explained. Indeed, Marcy and other scientists have found a surprising number of Earth-like exoplanets in recent years — rocky planets the right distance from their suns to support water — suggesting that life as we know it is at least possible, if not probable, all over the universe.